OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A group of three dozen lawmakers, including 28 republicans, are asking Gov. Kevin Stitt and the state pardon and parole board to reopen the investigation that led to Oklahoma death-row inmate Richard Glossip’s conviction.
The group said new evidence found by Glossip’s attorney should prompt an independent investigation into the 1997 beating death of motel owner Barry Van Treese at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City.
“I’m pleading with the governor and the pardon and parole board to look into this case,” Rep. Kevin McDugle said. “Because I can’t allow it on my watch to put an innocent man to death here in the state of Oklahoma.”
Thirty-four lawmakers from both sides of the aisle signed the request after nearly half of them took a trip to the state’s death row in McAlester.
“If we’re going to sentence someone to capitol punishment, we have a moral obligation to make sure we’re not sending anyone innocent to death,” said Rep. Mickey Dollens.
Van Treese’s convicted killer, Justin Sneed, received a life sentence in return for testifying against Glossip. However, Glossip’s defense attorney claims new evidence includes accounts from people who said Sneed only implicated Glossip to spare himself from the death penalty.
“And what did he get out of it?” asked Rep. McDugle. “He no longer gets death row. He gets life in prison while Glossip gets death row.”
Glossip escaped the death penalty in 2015 after a botched execution and drug mix-up.
Glossip’s attorney, Don Knight, is now on a mission. He said new evidence and witnesses will exonerate his client. He said he’s found missing pieces to the puzzle police never found through his own investigation.
“This investigation from the police ran one week. It ran from the first time they talked to Rich Glossip and the time after they caught Justin Sneed and talked to him. We can’t even find that they did much of an investigation even in that one week,” said Knight.
Knight said one potential star witness talked to Sneed in the Oklahoma County Detention Center, who allegedly said Sneed and his girlfriend cooked up the plan to feed their meth addition. However, he regretted not walking away with much cash.
“Sneed would sometimes comment that he couldn’t believe he had killed a man for so little money. He ended up somewhere around $4,000,” said Knight, as he read from the inmate’s sworn affidavit.
District Attorney David Prater said this is all an act and said the lawmakers never reached out to him about any of these claims.
“They have not requested transcripts of court proceedings, appellate briefs or anything else,” he said in a statement to KFOR.
Prater’s full statement on Glossip is as follows:
“We are a nation of laws. We must strictly adhere to the rule of law and the process of the administration of those laws. The law and the legal process assure that allegations and claimed information have some indicia of reliability and truthfulness.
I rely on the legal process to sanitize the venomous accusations made against me. I am confident that the rule of law will again rule the day and none of the falsehoods and lies will survive.
It is concerning to me that the Legislators who have signed the letter to the Governor and the Pardon and Parole Board, many of whom are attorneys, have never attempted to contact me about the Glossip case. They have made no inquiry about any of the claims made by the killer’s lawyers or supporters. They have not requested transcripts of court proceedings, appellate briefs or anything else. The killer has exercised and exhausted every constitutional and statutory right as he has gone through the trial process and both the state and federal appellate process. Every court has reviewed his claims and have denied him any relief.
Ironically, the very people who have signed this letter work in a legislative system that operates in a black hole. These Oklahoma Legislators have even exempted themselves from the Oklahoma Open Records and Open Meetings act. They operate behind closed doors within a process designed to evade public scrutiny. I challenge the signors of this letter to allow the same scrutiny of themselves and their legislative process as the law provides for the court system and me.
Finally, maybe it is time for these legislators to have an honest and sincere debate about the death penalty in Oklahoma. Do we have a death penalty in Oklahoma or do we not? The citizens of Oklahoma have overwhelmingly supported the death penalty as judged by a recently balloted state question. Why are the legislators playing games through political theater like this press conference and letter today? Stop avoiding the difficult discussions and stop lying to the families of murdered victims!”DISTRICT ATTORNEY DAVID PRATER
An Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office spokesperson issued the following statement, saying Glossip had his day in court twice and that the pardon and parole board already denied clemency unanimously:
“Richard Glossip had two trials. A total of 24 jurors unanimously chose the sentence of death. His case has exhausted both state and federal appeals, including denial by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Additionally, Glossip has been denied a clemency recommendation by a unanimous vote of the Pardon and Parole Board.
In 2015, in his last appeal to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, Glossip raised claims that involved allegations of actual innocence. The Court reviewed each claim and found “Glossip has presented no credible evidence.
Judge Robert Hudson, in his concurring opinion in Glossip’s case said, “this court’s rules and cases do not impede the raising of actual innocence claims at any stage of an appeal.” And this is still the proper forum for presentation for any alleged new evidence.
Glossip had his day in court. Two juries of his peers have spoken.
Our thoughts remain with the family of Mr. Barry Van Treese, the victim of this horrendous murder.”COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR ALEX GERSZEWSKI, OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE
Knight said he’s willing to lay his cards out on the table as long as the state does as well.
“I’m hopeful that the Oklahoma County District Attorney will do the same with his cards and an independent investigator will take a look at this case and tell us exactly what happened here,” Knight said.
Knight said executions could start back up in the state as early as August. He also said Glossip is staying positive about getting another appeal.